Christmas is another one of those all-American holiday creations that knits together a hodge-podge of pagan legends, immigrant traditions, Christian principles, and commercial prosperity.
Saturnalia was the month-long Roman celebration of the winter solstice. For reasons lost to history, Pope Julius I picked 25 December to be Jesus’ birthday.
The prosperity of 19th century capitalism followed the direction of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” whose Ebeneezer Scrooge learned, “Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, benevolence, were all my business.”
Christmas became a federal holiday in 1870 to help heal America from the wounds of our Civil War.
In fine American “melting pot” fashion, America fused the many Christmas traditions of its immigrants. German immigrants brought the Christmas tree tradition. The Dutch gave us Sintr Klaas (Santa Claus) in honor of Saint Nicholas, a third century pious monk who ministered to children. Scandinavians had St. Nick ride a sleigh pulled by goats delivering presents to children. Clement Clarke Moore’s, “Twas the night before Christmas” described the “right jolly old elf” and Coca-Cola advertising did much to popularize his rosy cheeks and red suit image of today.
Christmas is for all Americans to celebrate life, be thankful, share in their blessings, and never forget that tomorrow through divine providence will get better and brighter for us all.
“Happy Christmas to all and to all a good night!”